Back in January, I laid out my plan for permanent duck paddocks in my Homestead Wish List. I didn’t put a date on completion because I wanted to perfect my art of duck paddock-making so I could duplicate the process for my next four paddocks. Even though I hadn’t set a hard deadline, I’ve been feeling guilty for running late on getting this done. But as with most things, I underestimated the time it would take.
Here’s a breakdown of the work involved with making it happen:
- Removing temporary paddock fences from last year – 4 hours
- Putting in permanent fence posts (6 wooden posts in rock-soil, 16 T-posts) – 4 hours
- Running a 4′ fence – 3 hours
- Running a 2′ fence along the bottom inside of the 4′ fence (so little ducks couldn’t squeeze under) – 3 hours
- Ground preparation and seeding – 1 hour
- Digging pond, sealing it with Bentonite, checking/re-sealing and filling it several – 8 hours
- Collecting rocks and tree limbs from around our property to use to stabilize shoreline and create an easy walk-in and out beach area so young ducks don’t accidentally drown – 2.5 hours
- Creating an entry way for the gate – 1.5 hours
- Making and hanging the gate – 3 hours
- Cutting bamboo and building and painting the house – 6 hours
- Removing thistles from paddock (self-seeded from last year) – 1 hour
- Buying materials and planning – maybe 3 or so hours
All in, it was around 40 hours work, but I also spent some time envisioning what I hoped it would look like, sourcing free materials, and scouring pinterest for inspiration. My next few paddocks will go faster in some respects, but the ponds will be a bit bigger and will take longer to dig.
I delayed transferring our ducklings to the paddock until they were five weeks old because we’ve been having crazy rain and temperature fluctuations around here. Now the ducks are hardy enough and the weather stable enough that our new residents are happily basking in the abundant splendor of duck paddock paradise number one.
Since our farm name is the reLuxe Ranch, I call our duck paddocks reDuxe Ranches when I talke about them. For fun, I wanted to make the gate and paddock remniscent of a the entrances to big ranches, but I was on a pretty tight budget ($300 total – most of that was spent on bentonite and lumber). So this is what I came up with…
I still have to backfill the area just outside the gate with rocks. And once the pressure treated lumber is dried enough, I’ll paint it rustic colors.
The paddock has a mini-pond with an easy in and out shallow area, lots of rye grass, clover, mustard, mint, red perilla, and a duck shelter (shown in the before photo of the pond area below).
It has good shade from three mature peach trees. Additionally, this area is uphill from a row of young fruit trees, grape vines, and other edible and edible support plants. There is a channel just below the downhill side of the fence that catches any run-off water from the paddock above and funnels it to the roots of everything planted below. As ducks do a whole lot of pooping, the run-off is loaded with good stuff to help fertilize this soon-to-be food forest.
My other paddocks will likely have welded wire fencing and more predatory protection since they are closer to the edge of the woods. But this paddock is located in a lighted area right in front of our house and is basically intended to keep the ducks in. I went with chicken wire this time because it’s perfect for containing ducklings and doesn’t obscure the view from our front porch as much as welded wire would. In the event that I do need to secure it better, thanks the proximity to the house, I can easily run electricity to the paddock and install electric wire using plastic extenders outside the fence.
I am raising these ducks for meat. Their lives will be short…just a few months. In that time, I hope this paddock will provide them a safe and comfortable space to play, grow, socialize, and express their natural duck behaviors.